A quick rewind back to Saturday’s game where a sluggish second half lead to the Bucks falling to the Raptors, and where was Thon Maker? On the bench getting his 7th DNP of the season. Maker has found himself in this position a number of times under both Coach Budenholzer and formally Jason Kidd, because in the past the coaches thought he was not quick enough to guard many of the opposing teams PF’s and he was not strong enough to guard many of the teams opposing centers.
Fast forward two days later and the Bucks are playing a non-conference game against the Utah Jazz in Milwaukee. The head coach of the Utah Jazz Quin Snyder took a little different approach when it came to defending Giannis, and that was not to have Jae Crowder or Derrick Favors guard him, but chose to have former Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert to go one-on-one with the Greek Freak, and one-on-one did they go. With Giannis taking 30 shots on the night as well as fouling out late in the game.
The reason why this is important is because this allowed Thon Maker an opportunity to see the floor, because under normal circumstances there is no way Thon Maker would be able to guard Rudy Gobert one-on-one, but with Gobert’s focusing being Antetokounmpo it allowed the opportunity for Thon to seize the day.
Seize the day Thon did, as he played arguably his best game of his career, and was at least for the night the best Buck on the court. In 18 minutes off the bench Maker shot 6/8 from the field, 2/3 from beyond the arch and finished with 15 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals and zero turnovers.
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) January 8, 2019
Maker’s big night was not without notice, as he had a standing ovation from the Fiserv Forum as well as Giannis crediting the W to Maker. The Bucks this season have still not lost 2 games in a row, and without Maker’s energy that streak would probably be over. This is a much needed statistical improvement from the 15 win Bucks from 2013-2014 who did not win 2 games in a row all year (RIP).
The question is, can Thon continue this exceptional play like teammate D.J. Wilson did, and earn himself a consistent role in Budenholzer’s rotation? In the short term probably not, as the Rockets will be a tough match-up for Maker to see the floor against Clint Capella, and the rest of the Rockets are so much smaller that they would probably be too quick for Maker to guard. Besides a poor match-up this Wednesday, there will be opportunities for Maker to play against teams like Washington, Orlando, Atlanta and Dallas.
In an Eastern Conference race, every game matters. The fact that Maker’s play stole a game is already valuable enough, if he can continue keep this momentum up I can’t even imagine what actual Playoff Thon could unleash, maybe the MVP caliber type player that K.G. said he would be? (Wishful thinking I know, but a man can dream)
(All stats via basketball_reference.com & media from bucks.com)